Evidence points to eco-terrorists in Snohomish County arsons

April 22, 2004

By RAY LANE / KING 5 News and Wire Reports

SEATTLE, WA- There was mounting evidence Thursday that eco-terrorists were behind a series of arsons or attempted arsons at housing developments in Snohomish County, Wash.

While there was no concrete proof of responsibility, evidence pointed to the work of the Earth Liberation Front, a radical eco-terrorist group linked to several arsons over the years.

Within the past three days, three housing developments have been targeted: Lobo Ridge east of Snohomish, Cedars Crossing and Storm Lake Heights near Monroe.

"It appears that they're connected," said Jan Jorgensen of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Dept. "It can't be a coincidence."

Bottles of flammable liquid were found Wednesday by a contractor at three houses under construction at the Storm Lake Heights development in the Snohomish area.

Homeowner Jason Michaud learned his house was one of three where federal fire agents discovered lit incendiary devices. The devices had failed to fully ignite, sparing Michaud’s home from burning to the ground.

"To have someone mess with your dreams like that is really upsetting," said Michaud, thankful his new home was still standing.

Agents found fire bombs, modified Molotov cocktails with slow-burning fuses, at one of the sites. Similar devices torched two homes in Snohomish Tuesday morning, causing an estimated $800,000 worth of damage. Then builders found flammable liquids and a threatening note at another development near Maltby the next day.

That note might be agents’ first decent lead. Federal agents said one of the devices included material from the Earth Liberation Front.

With so many unknowns, new homeowners and contractors are still a bit jittery. Michael Lamm, a private investigator owns an agency that offers protective services, said business is picking up.

“We're getting a lot of calls right now requesting prices and quotes and stuff like that," he said.

While Michaud hopes the arsonists don’t come back to his home, some contractors said they’re ready if the firebugs try to finish the job.

“I think we'll be camping out here for the next few nights, might have a little artillery with us,” said Pat Garrison, home builder. “We’re not going to put up with it. I’m not saying we’re going to shoot anyone. We might scare the hell out of them though.”

"If these are eco-terrorists, the contractors are playing right into their hands because they're giving them more ammunition,” said Lamm. “It's like a game now."

So far, the Earth Liberation Front, known to quickly take credit for its actions, has not claimed responsibility for the arsons. No other group has stepped forward either.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said Thursday that remnants of the firebombs and other evidence have been sent to the agency's lab in California, with all the analysis to be expedited.

Federal agents also pointed to the possibility of copycat criminals at work, without eco-terror motivations.

The Earth Liberation Front has been linked to several arsons over the years, including one at a tree farm in Oregon, another at a Portland car dealership, and at government offices in Olympia, Wash. Three years ago eco-terrorists also burned the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Similar arson attacks have taken place in other states. Investigators in Phoenix said that some people opposed to urban sprawl set fires that burned up 11 luxury homes in 2002. Six homes went up a year later in the San Diego area. "Enviro-arsonists" took credit for those fires, saying the homes replaced wilderness.

KING5.com's Liza Javier contributed to this report.



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